HILL: What's the problem?

HILL: What's the problem?
by Mitja Golob

Did you see what Damon Hill did on 26th lap turning into Copse? Did he really experience some car handling problems or did we just see the ol' Damon we know from previous experiences who makes too many "strange" mistakes?

Let's recall his first interview after spinning off Silverstone track. Hill said he was on the radio with the Williams crew, reporting that his car was acting strange the past 4 laps and he didn't know what was wrong. I disagree.

Maybe Niki Lauda answered this best when he heard him on RTL. I don't have the transcript, but to paraphrase from memory, he said Hill's excuses were bullshit and that he just made another driver error. He went on to say it was strange that Hill didn't know what the problem was. Every driver knows what sort of problems he is incurring and must acclimatize his driving to that problem. Hill is just seeking for excuses. Looks like he didn't find one yet....

I agree. Every driver was experiencing a lack of grip at the end. Brakes were not braking as good as at the start. A driver has to accommodate to new situation. If yours tyres are nearing the end, you just can't brake and take turns so quick. And, that is exactly what happened to Damon. He was on a one pitstop strategy and his tyres were bad. Let's be honest... he pushed it a bit too hard fighting against Hakkinen.

We saw such mistakes from Hill in previous years -- loosing the car while braking (Silverstone '95, Hockenheim '95¹, Monza '95...). It was beginning to seem that he finally found some confidence and maturity this year. But, after his error in Barcelona and this last event in Silverstone, we see he is still the insecure Hill of old.

When driving in the lead in a car that just can't be overtaken, Hill is naturally strong (who wouldn't be ?), but when he drops a bit and is forced to fight, his limitations become painfully obvious. Driving the Williams seems relatively painless, problems occur when you have to add some "magic" of your own in order to compete with a less that "Williams-like" machine. I'm sorry to say that Hill wouldn't know how to cut a deck of cards, let alone pull a rabbit out of a hat.

So, I take it that the only solution for him is to look for excuses (especially at his home Grand Prix) if he wants have at least some negotiating leverage for next season. Incidentally, there are rumors that Hill is wanting $18M from Williams in next year... is this a reason why other rumors have Schumacher closing a deal with Williams for 1997? Is Schumacher intentionally sabotaging Ferrari to get away from it with "non-competitivness" clause? How come Ferrari performed well during the whole of last week's week testing program to then breakdown in the early stages of a race for 3rd time in a row? Sabotage work done too well!

Well, one reason to justify Schumacher's professionalism and overall high regard is that he never searched for any excuses after crashing in Monaco. Michael plainly (and possibly painfully) said: "It was all my fault. I am sorry for the team who did great work." I would almost put money on Hill saying he was experiencing car handling problems if helmets were exchanged. But, then again, Hill isn't the only driver guilty of passing the blame.

When Villeneuve, in his first season, can get within .2 seconds of his teammate, Hill has to be worried. Sure, during the course of a race, Villeneuve still has trouble catching Hill, but give him time... at least a season. Nobody has performed miracles in his first season (unless winning twice and having the fastest race lap three times is considered a miracle). Next year, if they stay together at Williams, Villeneuve will outperform Hill as did Coulthard in 1995.

Front wheel bearing failure? Give me a break... or at least learn how to step on it, Damon.

¹Editors note: Williams reported Hill did suffer wheel bearing failure at Hockenheim 1995 as opposed to braking.

Mitja Golob
Send comments to: Mitja.Golob@snet.fri.uni-lj.si